Chloe in India
by Kate Darnton
Jan. 12, 2016
A poignant and delightful story involving class, race, social customs, and a unique friendship that questions them all.
Though they’re divided by class, language, appearance—you name it—Chloe and Lakshmi have a lot in common. Both girls are new to Class Five at Premium Academy in New Delhi, India, and neither seems to fit in. But they soon discover how extraordinary an ordinary friendship can be and how celebrating our individuality can change the world.
Eleven-year old Chloe, and her family, have moved from America to Delhi in India because, as her journalist mother puts its, “that’s where the stories are”. With her blond hair and American ways, Chloe doesn’t exactly fit in with her mostly very rich, Indian peers. But when Lakshmi, who is very poor and treated as an outcast, joins Chloe’s class, the two form an unexpected friendship. The two young girls must navigate the world of mean girls, class separation, and their own preconceived ideas.
I can fully appreciate what author Kate Darnton has tried to do with Chloe in India, but overall, I found this to be a disappointing read. Darnton clearly sets out to shed light on the socioeconomic divide in India and how the poorer citizens are unfairly treated, which she does. However, the execution just does not work. The story unfolds through Chloe’s eyes and this perspective is really not effective. Chloe and her privileged, upper middle-class family, while sympathetic to the plight of India’s poor people, have no real first-hand experience with such injustices and hardships. And next to Lakshmi’s extreme hardships, Chloe’s troubles and complaints, seem quite trivial. Seeing and exploring all aspects of this new and exotic world would have been more interesting and effective if seen through a native’s eyes, like Lakshmi’s.
And while Darnton does explore those many aspects of Delhi and her people, she does so through Chloe and her family’s critical, often close-minded and judgmental, perspective. It just never feels like the India in the book is given a chance to shine or be celebrated. If I were a kid, this book would not make me excited to learning more about or want to visit India...which is just sad.
The friendship between Chloe and Lakshmi is definitely sweet and, while Chloe is likable enough, I did really enjoy Lakshmi’s endearing and enduring character. However, the rest of the characters were either too flat or too over the top for my liking. And I found Chloe’s mother to be quite unbearable.
my final thoughts: There’s so much Chloe in India could’ve done right, but just didn’t. Overall, I found it to be a lackluster, ineffective read.
Kate Darnton is a writer and book editor from Boston. She lived with her family in New Delhi for five years. They now live in Amsterdam.